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Get with the beet

Monday, December 20, 2010

The first time I ate beetroot, it was pickled and came in a jar. Many people apparently don't like pickled beetroot. I happened to like the taste and how it tinted everything in my salad bowl pink.

But then I started eating it fresh, mostly in Indian dishes, and became even more fond of it. This, however, is the first time I had ever tried preparing and cooking it myself.

As you can see from the picture above, the ones that I got were already "mature" beetroot. After I roasted them, I started using gloves when I was removing the skin because that is what many recipes advise to keep your hands from turning red. But that just didn't feel right – how can you not touch your food when preparing it? There needs to be a connection.

Too red?
I used the beets in a vegetable tagine with chickpeas, dates and a mixture of 32 spices that I got from Morocco. I made it for a family lunch as a side dish to my sister's chicken briyani, and even though they thought it tasted good, I think they were a little put off by the bright red colour. What do you think? (see right)

I had to know, however, if I could use beetroot in a bread and searched for recipes online. There are many but most are for quick breads, and then I came upon this recipe at Sunday Hotpants (isn't that just a great name?! Go check out the blog; it has some great stories and recipes). I just could not take my eyes off the picture of the pink dough ­­– it's so enticing! This meant that a beetroot yeasted bread was possible, and I got on with the task.

I used a simple bread recipe that I was familiar with, but have to admit that this was probably not the best recipe  to use. I  made a little loaf in a half-pound pan and that turned out fine, and a boule, which I decided bake using the Dutch oven method (from Jim Lahey's No Knead Bread recipe). Instead of preheating the pot, I used Michael Ruhlman's suggestion in Ratio (p.14) to simply proof the boule in the Dutch oven. This, he says, doesn't disturb the structure that you've created in the final rise and "it results in bread with a light, airy crumb". However, that's not how my bread turned out and I put it down to not getting the right consistency with the dough. I ended up adding more than enough flour and the boule turned out crumbly.

TOMORROW: Beetroot bread makes a rosy dish

Not shocking, is it?
Makes 1 standard boule
(+ a little one)

3-4 cups strong white bread flour
3 tablespoons full-cream milk powder
3 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons honey
1 medium beetroot coarsely grated
1½ teaspoons active dried yeast
250ml warm water, approximate
Seeds (optional)
  • Cook the beetroot (either steam or roast). When cool, peel and coarsely grate. Mix 3 cups of flour, milk powder and salt together in a large bowl. Rub in the butter and honey until combined. Stir in the beetroot. Sprinkle the yeast onto the mixture and stir to incorporate. Stir in the water until the mixture comes together.
  • On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough, adding more flour a little at a time if necessary, until a smooth and elastic dough is formed and it passes the windowpane test, 10-15 minutes. Return to the mixing bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to proof  until doubled in size, about 1 hour. To test for proofness, poke the dough with a finger and the dent should remain. 
  • Deflate the dough and remove from the mixing bowl. Shape as desired and place on a baking tray/loaf pan that has been lightly greased and sprinkled with flour/cornmeal. Paint the top of the dough with water and slice an X into the top or make long diagonal scores. Sprinkle with flour or seeds. Cover and set aside to rise until doubled in size.
  • 30 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to maximum (most domestic ovens go up to 250°C). Place risen dough in oven and bake for 10 minutes, then turn oven down to 190°C and continue baking until done, 40-50 minutes.
The process
Tickled pink with the colour


  1. Great to know that the beetroot bread remains pink after it is baked. I tried making beetroot cake ( The dough lost most of its pink color after baked. It was delicious, though. I made pink cream cheese icing that remained pink. I'm including your recipe on my list!

  2. Hey, I tried baking this bread before, I was so excited with the beautiful pink dough but most of the colour disappeared after baking! Yours remained a very nice pink! How did you do that! Lovely!

  3. Hi Renata and Jeannie. I have seen pictures of beetroot loaves and none looked as pink as mine so I was shocked to see the colour of my bread. And then I realised something - I posted this before changing my recipe. I actually used COOKED beetroot and I suspect that is what makes, and keeps, the bread pink after it is baked. I have already revised the recipe. Thanks for helping me see the error!

  4. Thanks for the great tip! Next time I'll try cooked beetroot instead!

  5. I did roast my beet but I mashed it instead of grating it...maybe I did it too fine? Mmmm...must try again.


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